The English Noun Phrase in Its Sentential Aspect

S. P. Abney, 1987

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This dissertation is a defense of the hypothesis that the noun phrase is headed by a functional element (i.e., “non-lexical” category) D, identified with the determiner. In this way, the structure of the noun phrase parallels that of the sentence, which is headed by Infl(ection), under assumptions now standard within the Government–Binding (GB) framework.

The central empirical problem addressed is the question of the proper analysis of the so-called “Poss-ing” gerund in English. This construction possesses simultaneously many properties of sentences, and many properties of noun phrases. The problem of capturing this dual aspect of the Poss-ing construction is heightened by current restrictive views of X-bar theory, which, in particular, rule out the obvious structure for Poss-ing, [NP NP VPing], by virtue of its exocentricity.

Consideration of languages in which nouns, even the most basic concrete nouns, show agreement (AGR) with their possessors points to an analysis of the noun phrase as headed by an element similar to Infl, which provides a position for AGR; I call this Infl-like element “d.” D and Infl belong to the class of non-lexical categories, which I prefer to call functional categories. The analysis in which D heads the noun phrase I call the “DP analysis.”

Importing the DP analysis into English yields an immediate solution for the problem of the Poss-ing gerund: Poss-ing gerunds (and by extension, noun phrases generally) have a more sentence-like structure than hitherto thought, namely, [DP DP’s D VPing]. (In non-gerundive noun phrases, “VP” is replaced by a projection of N. This projection of N, despite being a maximal X-bar projection, corresponds to N-bar in the standard analysis.)

Current trends in the treatment of minor categories—so-called “non-lexical” categories—lead us to a similar conclusion. Until recently, minor categories like complementizers and modals had been treated as syncategorematic. Under current assumptions, however, they participate fully in the X-bar schema. In this way, two simplifications are achieved simultaneously: we eliminate syncategorematic elements, and we acquire endocentric analysis of the sentence, which had been exceptional in being the only exocentric major category. To make these results fully general, we are led to treat the remaining syncategorematic elements—in particular, determiners in noun phrases and degree words in adjective phrases—as heads of full phrases. The analogy with complementizers and modals indicates that determiners and degree words should head noun phrases and adjective phrases, respectively. In other words, determiners are lexical instantiations of “D” in the same way that modals are lexical instantiations of Infl.

However, despite the conceptual links, the question of the existence of a functional head of the noun phrase (the DP analysis), and the question of the place of the determiner, are independent questions, and I treat them separately: Chapters One through Three are concerned predominately with the former question, Chapter Four with the latter.

Chapter One provides a brief introduction. In Chapter Two I present the DP analysis, motivating it by examining languages with agreement between noun and possessor. I also discuss issues raised by the DP analysis, with emphasis on the parallelism between noun phrase and sentence hypothesized under the DP analysis. In particular, I treat the question of PRO in noun phrase; and I show that the numerous differences between sentence and noun phrase do not invalidate the parallelism of structure proposed under the DP analysis. In Chapter Three I apply the analysis to the three gerundive constructions, Acc-ing, Poss-ing, and -ing of. Finally, in Chapter Four, I turn to the question of whether the determiner is the lexical instantiation of D, the functional head of the noun phrase.

Thesis Supervisor:      Dr. Richard K. Larson, Assistant Professor of Linguistics

1 Introduction 14
1.1 A puzzle and its solution 14
  1.1.1 The puzzle 14
  1.1.2 An apparently unrelated fact 17
  1.1.3 The solution 21
  1.1.4 The identity of X 23
  1.1.5 Sentence and noun phrase 25
1.2 Overview 28
2 Noun phrase and sentence 30
2.1 General similarities 30
2.2 Infl in the noun phrase 37
  2.2.1 Yup’ik 39
  2.2.2 Mayan 42
  2.2.3 Hungarian 44
  2.2.4 Digression: Comp in the noun phrase 46
  2.2.5 Turkish 49
2.3 The DP analysis 54
  2.3.1 Concepts and terminology 54
    a. “Inflectional” elements 54
    b. C-projection and S-projection 57
    c. “D” vs. “Det” 58
    d. Syntactic features 60
  2.3.2 Functional selection 63
  2.3.3 Two notions of command 68
  2.3.4 Det as head 71
  2.3.5 The position of ’s 78
    a. Morphological Case affix 78
    b. Determiner 79
    c. Postposition: N Case-assigns 79
    d. Postposition: AGR Case-assigns 81
  2.3.6 Appendix: Selection of DP 85
2.4 PRO in the noun phrase 89
  2.4.1 PRO book 89
  2.4.2 θ-theory 92
    a. Derived nominals 92
    b. Rationale clauses 93
  2.4.3 Control theory 97
  2.4.4 Binding theory 97
  2.4.5 Arguments against PRO in the noun phrase 101
    a. Yesterday’s destruction 101
    b. Obligatoriness of control 103
2.5 Differences between noun phrase and sentence 107
  2.5.1 Predication in the noun phrase 107
  2.5.2 Catalog of differences 115
    a. A preliminary: process vs. result 115
    b. Oligatoriness of subject 121
    c. Pleonastics 122
    d. Case 122
    e. Restrictions on passive 123
    f. Psych nouns 125
    g. Raising 129
    h. Exceptional Case Marking 129
    i. Small clauses 131
    j. Ditransitivity 131
    k. Object control 134
    l. Tough constructions 135
    m. John’s breaking his leg 139
    n. Pseudo-passive 142
    o. Particles, particle movement 143
    p. Resultative secondary predicates 143
    q. Object pleonastics 145
    r. Concealed questions 146
    s. Indirect questions 146
    t. Complementizer deletion 147
  2.5.3 Appendix: reducing the differences 149
3 Gerunds 165
3.1 Introduction 165
  3.1.1 The range of gerund constructions 167
  3.1.2 Reuland’s analysis of Acc-ing 168
3.2 Noun phrase aspects of Poss-ing 171
  3.2.1 External evidence 171
    a. Distribution 171
    b. Agreement 175
    c. Long-distance binding 175
  3.2.2 Internal evidence 176
    a. Subject 176
    b. Specificity 178
    c. Pied piping 179
    d. Scope 179
    e. Sentential adverbs 180
3.3 Sentential aspects of Poss-ing 182
  3.3.1 VP in Poss-ing 182
  3.3.2 PRO in the gerund 183
  3.3.3 “N-bar” deletion 188
3.4 Analyses I: finding the seam 190
  3.4.1 Schachter 190
  3.4.2 Horn 192
  3.4.3 The D–VP analysis 193
    a. -ing as functional head 193
    b. Turkish again 196
    c. ’s and determiners 197
  3.4.4 The D–IP analysis 199
    a. Determiners 201
    b. The positions of -ing 201
    c. Spanish el + infinitive 202
    d. Scope of not 203
    e. ’s as θ-assigner 205
3.5 Analyses II: the morphological angle 210
  3.5.1 Jackendoff 210
    a. The deverbal rule schema 210
    b. The history of the English gerund 211
    c. -ing of 214
  3.5.2 Pesetsky/Lebeaux 217
  3.5.3 Baker 219
3.6 Conclusion: Syntactic affixation 222
  3.6.1 A final analysis 222
    a. The “scope” of -ing 222
    b. Acc-ing 225
    c. Poss-ing 228
    d. The site of -ing 231
    e. Lowering -ing 238
    f. Appendix: VP- and NP-deletion 244
  3.6.2 Affixes in the syntax 248
    a. The “new morphology” 248
    b. Turkish gerunds and the Mirror Principle 249
    c. Generalizing the Mirror Principle 251
  3.6.3 Verbal and adjectival passive 253
    a. Distribution 254
    b. Internal evidence 257
    c. A digression on Case absorption 258
    d. More internal evidence 262
4 Lexical determiners 265
4.1 Determiners as head 268
  4.1.1 Arguments for the standard analysis 268
    a. Selectional restrictions 268
    b. Determiners and possessors 270
    c. Hungarian 272
  4.1.2 Sundry evidence for Det as head 277
    a. Dets that cannot stand alone 277
    b. Dets that can stand alone 278
    c. Pronouns 281
    d. Dets as functional elements 285
    e. Head-to-head movement 285
  4.1.3 The range of specifiers 287
    a. Two bars vs. three bars 287
    b. Noun phrase specifiers 290
    c. Pseudo-partitive 295
4.2 The adjective phrase 298
  4.2.1 Deg as head 298
  4.2.2 Adjective, adverb, and quantifier 301
  4.2.3 The “subject” of Deg 304
  4.2.4 Extent clauses 312
  4.2.5 Two specifiers in adjective phrase 315
  4.2.6 Overview of structures 320
4.3 The positions of prenominal adjectives 322
  4.3.1 Two hypotheses 322
  4.3.2 Adjective as head of NP 323
    a. Too big a house 323
    b. Complements 326
    c. Mere and utter 328
    d. Semantics 328
    e. Comparatives 331
    f. Determination of noun phrase type 333
    g. Idioms 334
  4.3.3 Two more hypotheses 335
    a. AP vs. DegP 335
    b. Quantifiers 338
    c. Problems 341
4.4 Conclusion 351
5 Bibliography 355